Bhima-Koregaon Anniversary: Lakhs gather at mega event near Pune, Internet shut down
Mumbai, Jan 01: Nearly five lakh people, mainly neo-Buddhists, members of Ambedkarite outfits, politicians gathered near the ransthamb or victory pillar for the 202nd anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle of 1818 on New Year's Day on Wednesday. Security has been heightened and internet access has been suspended in areas around the event to prevent rumour mongering on social media.
The celebration marking the 200th year of the battle was marred by caste violence, which police claimed was due to provocative speeches at the Elgar Parishad in Koregaon Bhima a day earlier.
Several groups organised a public conference in the name of the Elgar Parishad at the Shaniwar Wada, which was the seat of the Peshwas until 1818.
During that conference which was attended by Jignesh Mewani and Prakash Ambedkar, Hindutva politics was said to have been referred to as neo-peshwai (new Peshwas). This led to trouble and was cited as one of the reasons for the violence.
Several arrests were made, including of well-known rights activists whom the Pune police accused of having Maoist links.
Bhima-Koregaon is a small village in Pune district, Maharashtra. On January 1, 1818, Mahar soldiers of the East India Company led by the British, defeated the Peshwa army that was led by Peshwa Bajirao II at Koregaon.
The Dalits who follow Dr B R Ambedkar view this as a great victory of Mahars over the injustice meted to them by the Brahminical Peshwas.
Every year on January 1, the Dalits who follow Ambedkar gather at Bhima-Koregaon to pay their respects at the victory pillar called the Vijay Sthamb. This pillar was erected by the East India Company in memory of those who fought the battle. The names of those Mahar soldiers who brought an end to the Peshwa rule in 1818 are inscribed on the pillar.